Classic Baked Ziti

5 from 2 votes

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Warm and comforting this is an easy-to-make classic Baked Ziti recipe filled with Italian Sausage, tomato sauce, and cheese to the max! This recipe is especially indulgent with a side of Homemade Garlic Bread.

baked ziti in baking pan

Baked Ziti | A Classic Dinner

Love Lasagna but hate the time it takes to make it? Baked Ziti offers all of the same flavors and comforts that lasagna does but with way less effort. Meaty tomato sauce, filling pasta, and all of that melted gooey cheese! Today’s classic Baked Ziti recipe makes a large 9×13 pan which is perfect for large families or to use as leftovers! While I have my Instant Pot Baked Ziti on the blog (that is super popular), I thought I should post a more classic recipe that everyone can make. No special equipment needed!

Main Ingredients Needed

With a couple of pantry staples you can have this Baked Ziti recipe ready for dinner tonight! Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Ziti Pasta – this is just a specific pasta shape, penne would work perfectly well in its place.
  • Sweet Italian Sausage – I used sweet Italian Sausage here but feel free to use mild or hot!
  • Olive Oil, Onion + Garlic – these three are used with the sausage to add some subtle flavors.
  • Marinara Sauce, Tomatoes + Water – these three make up the sauce. I used storebought marinara sauce (Rao’s). It’s a little expensive but so worth it.
  • Oregano, Basil, Bay Leaves, Salt + Pepper – these herbs and seasonings help flavor the sauce.
  • Mozzarella + Part-Skim Mozzarella – I used a blend of full fat and a lower fat mozzarella in this recipe. Don’t worry, it still tastes great.
  • Parmesan – I also used parmesan for a little bit more cheesy oomph!
melting cheese into ziti

Baked Ziti Variations

Everyone has their secret tips and tricks in making Baked Ziti their own and in this house, I encourage it! Feel free to use my recipe as a base then customize to your liking. Here are a couple of options to get you started:

  • Vegetarian Baked Ziti: feel free to make this a vegetarian meal by leaving out any meat products and then supplementing with more veggies!
  • Adding Vegetables: you can absolutely use/hide vegetables in this dish. Consider wilting spinach, adding shredded zucchini, or shredded carrots to this dish! Or serve your vegetables on the side!
  • Using Different Meat: although I use a pork Italian sausage for this baked ziti recipe, you can absolutely replace it with ground beef or ground turkey.
baked ziti in baking dish before baking

How to Make Baked Ziti

For full details on how to make baked ziti can be found in the recipe card down below 🙂

Step 1: Boil the Pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Step 2: Brown the Meat

In another pot or deep skillet with high sides, heat the pan over medium heat. Brown sausage, breaking apart as it cooks. Drain if desired. Replace back in the pan. To the cooked sausage, add olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until mostly tender.

Step 3: Make the Sauce

Stir in diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, water, basil, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper. Stir well. Cover and simmer. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings. Remove bay leaves.

Add cooked ziti to the sauce and stir to coat. Add in fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Stir to melt slightly.

Step 4: Bake

Pour into lightly greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese, cover with lightly greased foil and bake. Top with chopped parsley (optional) and serve hot.

baked ziti topped with cheese in baking dish before baking

Storing Baked Ziti

Baked Ziti will last in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 4-5 days! Which means it’s great for leftovers and meal prep. Alternatively you can make a double batch and freeze one portion for later!

Freezing Instructions

One of the best parts about Baked Ziti is that it can be frozen to last even longer and make a super easy dinner for the future, I love when that happens!

Simply double the recipe, bake one portion, and with the other store in a freezable container before baking (those aluminum casserole dishes found at the grocery store would work great for this). Be sure to cover tightly with aluminium foil and then plastic wrap before freezing. Freeze for up to 3 months.

When ready to bake, thaw in the fridge overnight then bake as accordingly!

spooning baked ziti onto white plate

Try this Baked Ziti soon, I just know you’ll love it!

The recipe card is down below, enjoy 🙂

5 from 2 votes

Classic Baked Ziti

Warm and comforting this is an easy-to-make classic Baked Ziti recipe filled with Italian Sausage, tomato sauce and cheese to the max!
servings 8 servings
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ziti pasta
  • 1.25 lbs Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 25 oz marinara sauce I used Rao's
  • 14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella drained and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup part skim mozzarella shredded

Instructions

  • Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • In another pot or deep skillet with high sides, heat pan over medium heat. Brown sausage, breaking apart as it cooks. Drain if desired. Replace back in the pan. To the cooked sausage, add olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until mostly tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Stir in diced tomatoes, marinara sauce, water, basil, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper. Stir well. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings. Remove bay leaves.
  • Add cooked ziti to sauce and stir to coat. Add in fresh mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Stir to melt slightly. Pour into lightly greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, cover with lightly greased foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Top with chopped parsley (optional) and serve hot.

Nutrition

Calories: 665kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 31g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 1370mg | Potassium: 817mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 785IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 356mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: baked ziti

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3 Responses
  1. Lesley

    Love this recipe. I cannot believe you used Rao’s we just got it here at Costco in Canada. Have bought and used it and it is good. I read up on it and all about it’s beginning’s. Will now get a reservation there when this virus is all over and we are able to visit the U.S. again. Thank you for this amazing recipe.

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